iRealPro Backing Tracks Setup

What Is The iRealPro App?

The iRealPro App is an easy-to-use tool to help jazz musicians of all levels master their art. It simulates a real-sounding band that can accompany you as you play though jazz standards. Hook it up to your speakers/monitors and you can will have the accompaniment of a jazz trio for any tune at your fingertips.


Here’s a screenshot of the iRealPro Dashboard with the tune “Autumn Leaves”:


The main benefits for students are:

  • It will help you become more comfortable playing in tempo with a bassist and drummer

  • A great tool for working on faster tunes and swing rhythm

  • Use the app to test how well you know your jazz standards… ditch the lead sheet and play along with the app. You will soon find out how well you know the chord changes.

  • The mobile app is the most portable and convenient way to carry around jazz standards. You are not given the melody, but you can access the chord changes for any tune in a matter of seconds!


Here is the iRealPro website where you can find more information: https://irealpro.com


How To Download & Install The iRealPro:

The iRealPro is available for both Apple & Windows/Android users. There is both a desktop application and also a mobile/tablet application.

I recommend that students use both. I have the desktop version on my Macbook which I use on a near-daily basis. The mobile app is also invaluable if I’m at a jam night and someone calls a tune that i’m not familiar with.


Download & Installation Instructions:

The following 4 step process outlines how to download and install the backing tracks for 1300 jazz standards and also practice exercises.

Step 1: Download the app:

If you have an iPad/Macbook/iPhone, you can go directly to the App Store and search for “iRealPro”. There is both desktop version (for laptop/computer) and mobile version (for iPad/Tablets/iPhone). It’s a one-time time $20 fee to download the software. It’s well worth the investment!

For Windows and Android Tablets/Phones, you can download the app here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.massimobiolcati.irealb&hl=en

For Apple Users (Mac, MacBook, iPad, iPhone), you can download the app here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ireal-pro-music-book-play-along/id298206806?mt=8


Step 2: Download the songs. This is free....

If you are using the laptop/desktop version, click the following link to navigate to the iRealPro Forum and click the ‘1300 jazz standards’ link:

https://www.irealb.com/forums/showthread.php?12753-Jazz-1300-Standards

This will download the tunes directly into your iRealPro app.


If you are using iPad/Tablet first open up the iRealPro app and you will see a globe icon in the top left corner of the screen. You need to click on the globe icon inside the app, which will take you to the forum:


When you are in the forum, then click into ‘Jazz’ and you will find the jazz standard download called “1300 Jazz Standards”. This pack automatically downloads the chord changes for every popular jazz standard.


Click on the blue hyperlinks in the forum and all of the songs will automatically be imported.


Step 3: Setting Up The iRealPro Correctly:

The iRealPro has a number of settings. Here is an overview of the useful features and also how to configure the backing tracks to play along with your piano.

The controls at the bottom right of the screen contain the following features. From right to left:


  1. Key Change - Instantly change the key of the backing track and the transposed chords will be displayed

  2. Tempo Control - Set the tempo for the backing track. When you load up a song, it loads up with a suggested tempo. 120bpm to 160bpm is a good tempo to work on swing rhythm.

  3. Repeats - When I’m using the app to practice improvisation over a medium tempo jazz standard, I will set the repeats to 20 and cycle around and around the form. Try to look at the screen as little as possible so that you are relying on your awareness to keep the form.

  4. Style - This allows you to quickly switch between pre-set feels and tempos such ballad, medium swing, up-tempo and Latin.

Mixer Settings

The “Mixer” configuration panel contains a number of settings that are important to configure the app so it’s ready for you to play along with:


  1. The first step is to make sure that the “Piano” slider is turned all of the way to the left. You are the piano and so you do need the piano sound in the backing track. If you were a horn player such as trumpet or saxophone for example, then you would have the piano switched on.

  2. You can choose between a number of different bass sounds. I like to leave this on “acoustic bass” so that it emulates that authentic jazz trio sounds.

  3. Next an important one! The drum settings. I always play with drums to “click on 2&4” - when playing with a swing feel, the drummer will emphasise beats 2 & 4 with the hi hat and so it’s good to be hear these beats accented. That way, if you ever play with a drummer, your ears and body will be calibrated with listening for the 2&4 and it will help you stay in time no matter what the tempo.



Lessons where we demonstrate the iRealPro App

There are a number of lessons in the PianoGroove course where we use the iRealPro as a supplementary tool when working on improvisation and medium tempo tunes.


Here’s a list and reference of each lesson:



2 Likes

Hello Hayden: sorry to bother you with this but it really frustrates me. Namely, I went back to seriously learn your transcription of My Funny Valentine. Here is my question: when using the iRealPro (which I do, and it is fine although challenging because the chords are not the same as in your transcription but I am not bothered by that) how do I sync the Hancock intro (4 bars) with activating the iRealPro on my iPad Mini? I am so clumsy that I have not able to do it. Is there a way to make it smooth?

There is no rush with this issue, when you find a moment. Thanks much, Smole

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Hi Smole!

Yes you will find a lot of variety in chord changes depending on the source you are looking at.

The different versions and editions of the RealBooks can contain very different changes. Also as you correctly point out the iRealPro has its own variations, and also often lists multiple options for the same chord, or passage.

Here is an example with My Funny Valentine:

Anyhow, onto your main question:

I have a few ideas here…

Taking into account that the intro can be played ‘freely’ ie. not perfectly in time, it may be a challenge to match it up with the iRealPro’s ‘count in’ to start the form and the backing track simultaneously.

Also, perhaps more importantly, the ‘count in’ is quite harsh sounding which might ruin the ambiance of that beautiful introduction we are playing :grinning:

Here’s a cool idea which works well for me:

Firstly go into the “Mixer Settings” on the iRealPro and you can change the settings for the ‘count in’

Now, we could click the dropdown for “Duration” and we can set it to “no count in”. However, I don’t think this is a good idea because that would again start the backing track rather abruptly which is exactly what we are trying to avoid here!

Instead if we turn the “Volume” slider down (see red arrow above) this will just apply to the count in and so now we have reduced the volume of that rather unpleasant count in. The key is that it can still be heard to help us set the tempo, but now it is not quite as jarring and distributive to the ambiance of the intro.

Now Let’s Tweak The Intro Slightly:

We finish the intro on a G13b9 chord, here’s a still shot of the voicing:

That is an upper structure triad voicings. US6 to be precise (major triad off 6th)

You could look at it as the shell of G7 in our left hand (root and b7) and then a major triads built off the 6 or 13 which gives us an E Major Triads adding the tones and tensions 3-13-b9 to our voicing.

One thing I like to do with these voicings is run the right hand triad up the keyboard whilst holding the pedal down. Hanging around on a V7 chord like this creates a nice ‘base’ to start the tune.

A Bit Of Multitasking For You Here Smole… :grinning:

Take that 2nd inversion E Major Triad, and practice running it up the keyboard whilst being very liberal with the pedal.

Whilst your right hand is slowly running up the keyboard, move your left hand off the keyboard to start the iRealPro.

I’m using my laptop here, and if I have iRealPro open, all i need to do is hit the [space] key which starts playback. You will see my left hand disappears off the screen in the video demonstration below.

You will then hear the very soft ‘count in’ to keep us in time, and then the full volume backing track kicks in.

I’ve not played this tune in a while, so my arrangement is a bit rusty :grin:, but here’s a demonstration I’ve just put together for you:

I hope this helps Smole…

iRealPro has tonnes of little settings like this and I know how useful it can be when someone shows and demonstrates them like this. Let us know if that works out for you. Cheers!

2 Likes

Hello Hayden: just a cursory reading of your response tells me that it is exactly what I was looking for and plus much, much more. Brilliant, really.

Come to think of it, your responsiveness to my/our questions is such that I feel as if I have a private tutor…that others listen to and benefit, too. I am truly grateful.

Now, to practice. Wish me well (joking, no need to respond to this e-response). Until the next yelp for help, Smole

Great stuff!

It’s a brilliant question Smole and one I’m sure others will find useful.

Many of us will be playing intros along with the iRealPro and so documenting these little ‘information nuggets’ of iRealPro’s options and features is exactly what this thread was created for.

Cheers and have a great weekend!
Hayden

So true!!! I feel the same. I feel so fortunate to have found Hayden’s site. He is a wonderful instructor!

3 Likes

IT WORKED EXACTLY AS YOU SAID, HAYDEN!! I am referring to the silent intro with the sound kicking in when the tune beings w. chords.

The demo you supplied is terrific, too. It is almost an exact replica of your full transcript, with minor changes, and it helps a great deal, too. I usually simplify some of the chords to fit my ability.

Thank you, I am so happy. Smole

3 Likes

A related question, Hayden: in Over the Rainbow, iRealPro has the traditional intro before ‘breaking’ into the main body of the tune. Any way to skip that intro (I am working on my own using your instructions)? I suspect not, except if that tune can be edited (which I did not try) or somehow mute the intro (while playing my own that has to be in sync, of course). As we would say in my native country: “the one who asks, does not wonder aimlessly.”

Thanks. Smole

P.S. I have decided on my course of action from now on: since it is very, very unlikely I will ever play except for “my own soul”, I am now turning my attention to every and all lessons in the PG course to playing solo piano. There is plenty of material in this domain, I am set for who knows how long.

1 Like

Great question here Smole… this is perhaps the most overlooked features of iRealPro.

You could indeed edit the form but there is a much simpler way to achieve the same result.

How To Select And Repeat Specific Parts Of The Form:

You can highlight/select and repeat a specific number of bars. I have created a screencast for you here:

You can also select one bar, then hit ‘play’, and that is where the backing track will start from. I didn’t demonstrate this in the video above, but it follows the same concept just without dragging to select more bars.

I hope this helps answer your question :+1:


I can certainly relate to that Smole! Playing solo is my main passion and where I get the most enjoyment from.

It may be worth noting that many jazz musicians consider improvising over ballads to be one of the hardest types of jazz performance.

This is because when playing on our own in a solo setting, it reveals all of our flaws and inaccuracies.

On the contrary, if we are playing in a band with other musicians, there is less attention on you, and also the rhythm is being driven by the drummer, which takes one of the roles.

When improvising solo piano, it’s common to play a stride left hand to establish the rhythm. I think it would be nice for us to revisit some ballad tunes in this style and explore some exercises and concepts for creating simple but effective improvised material.

I will plan a series of lessons on this :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I knew that asking you I’ll get a practical advise. Both for the iRealPro and for my next phase of study. I will add recording myself (video or audio) that Dan enabled me to do with his also excellent advice and guidance; that will help with overseeing the accuracy of my playing.

Thanks a bunch, again, and now to work…again. Love it, Smole

2 Likes

"When improvising solo piano, it’s common to play a stride left hand to establish the rhythm. I think it would be nice for us to revisit some ballad tunes in this style and explore some exercises and concepts for creating simple but effective improvised material.

I will plan a series of lessons on this :slight_smile:"

Could not agree more now that I am using stride piano style with Tenderly, Over the Rainbow, and Just Friends. Will continue, of course, I seriously follow all your suggestions/instructions. Best, Smole

1 Like

Hayden, there is more info on how to use iRealPro that may be of interest:

https://irealpro.com/dwkb/practicing/

What you explained in response to my question, iRealPro calls “Looping”. You are, of course, right: a very useful feature for a persistent student to use with practice. Best, Smole

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Brilliant article there Smole, I’m just reading over it all.

And “Looping” is a more succinct and logical term than my “Select & Repeat:smile:

Wonderful.

The goal is to be able to play the left hand stride without having to focus much attention on it… so that the left hand almost instinctively knows its way through the changes.

This frees up the mind and allows allows us to focus and immerse ourselves on right hand melodies.

It’s something I’ve been working on so we can attack it together. Looking forward!

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I recently came across this and thought it might be useful to put a link on the Resources page, especially for new members–or those with questions about iReal Pro. :headphones:

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Nice find @scott1 - I’ve merged the video into our thread on iRealPro.

She shares some great tips… I had no idea about the piano chords/guitar chords feature… amazing what this software can do!

And yes definitely a great idea to send new students here. We have a welcome email, I will add this thread to the “useful links” section.

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Hi Hayden and everyone, I have finally downloaded the iReal Pro app, and am very excited about working with it. Do you know how I can add an extra bar of count-in to a song ? I went into Edit Song, but not sure what the icons are ? Many thanks for your help.

Natasha

Hi Natasha,

Not sure what platform you’re using, but here’s how to set a count in on a Mac:

Click on the image to enlarge it and look at the inset control panel. It should make things clear. Hope this helps. :musical_keyboard:

1 Like

Hi @scott1, it worked ! Thanks so much :sunglasses: :star_struck: :ribbon:

Natasha